What Does Title Insurance Do?

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Terry Bishop Realty LLC

Why have a title search? Truthfully you may be purchasing a piece of property which actually may not be yours. Liens follow the property, not the people.
Suppose I sell you a piece of property at a rock bottom price, offer to finance it for you, tell you I will do everything, and all you have to do is give me earnest money of $20,000. It’s such a bargain you hop right on, so you give me good funds for $20,000. We sign the paperwork and alas, the property is now yours. I file all the paperwork and you think I am absolutely wonderful….Until you realize when you purchased that property from me, you also purchased all the liens; they are now your responsibility.
They can be mechanic’s liens for work completed but not paid; medical liens from doctors and hospitals, judgment liens handed down by a court for accidents or other legal entanglements, back child support, internal revenue service liens, HOA liens for back dues--liens for just about anything---you have just purchased all of them and they could be hundreds of thousands of dollars.
That’s just one of the reasons you need a title report. Maybe this is a second marriage and the property was purchased during the first marriage and there are children by that marriage. These children may have claim to the property when that spouse is deceased, and the living spouse actually has nothing.
Perhaps one spouse has died and the surviving spouse has not probated the estate. This happens frequently and the property is in the name of both spouses. A dead person cannot have claim to a property, it must be dispersed as the will deems or intestate (by the state). This must be completed before any transfer of property so that the legal owners can be found and possibly agree to the transfer.
Very often it is an investigative mission to find surviving heirs. I had a situation where the woman who was in a second marriage, wanted to sell her property. She had children by her first marriage and her first husband had died. The wife never took care of the first husband’s estate. He wanted his children to receive his portion of the property.
Immediately that means the wife receives only half of the value of the property, not the full value she anticipated. There were five children, spread all over the country. One of the children had died so his heirs were in line to inherit one fifth of one half of the proceeds of the property. We couldn’t find him and this was going to tie up the conveyance of the property. Finally we located him, and then we were able to put the property on the market. Had we a contract waiting, we probably would have lost the deal.
Good agents always check title prior to putting property on the market. Usually there is no problem, but sometimes a real estate/estate attorney needs to be called to unravel the title in a legal manner. Title insurance insures that good title is being passed to the buyer. Always read the preliminary title report and immediately take care of any red flags.

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Terry Bishop

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